The People’s Summit

Eco-social World banner: The People's Summit- "Leaving No One Behind"

“The summit, scheduled for 29 June to 2 July 2022, will bring together individuals and communities, people of lived experiences, along with global organizations to create a set of globally shared values for an eco-social world that leaves no one behind. The vision of this global summit emerges from the pandemic, the climatic crisis, and the need to co-build a new eco-social world based on values that shape policies and practices to ensure sustainability and good quality life cycles.

Register now to be part of this historic event.”

Cautiously optimistic for this upcoming summit- Excited to hear voices that will usually not make it to such global platforms but also wondering how the ideals behind the summit can be translated into policies/practices.

I interviewed a fellow social worker yesterday, and his journey reminded me of my own- Those familiar oscillations from “This direct work doesn’t seem to change anything“, to “Lets change the systems!”, to “Perhaps direct work is meaningful too, we can influence one person at a time- be it beneficiary or the volunteer*“.

* I ordinarily don’t prefer to use these terms, but they fit best here for clarity and brevity

We do have power to influence and shape norms/attitudes. But it is equally true that the systemic forces have power to keep things in their status quo. And systemic change does take a darn long time- micro changes at that. (Thinks of how we can apply for the ComCare financial assistance online!!)

Having transited through an idealist to more cynical stance with regards to partnering with the state and institutions, I found political science knowledge helpful in understanding how things work. Particularly incrementalism and the idea of competing publics- Basically that the state, no matter how strong (like ours haha), has to deal with conflicting stakeholders in the policy-making process. The absence of full knowledge on the consequences of each policy choice compounds the complexity of the process. Therefore, policy changes are often small steps forward.

I recall a reflection point on the recent discourse related to the Maintenance of Parents Act- a law that highlights both the nation’s subscription to individual responsibility (including to our families) and our collectivistic norms. Both of these big ideas have seen shifts over the years though. The Act was passed to protect senior parents who have no means of supporting themselves but whose able children are not supporting. This ensures that these seniors are not ‘left behind’ in their twilight years. More subtly, the Act also signals to the population that caring for one’s parents is a societal expectation.

However, there arises a multitude of unintended policy consequences- particularly poignant was the sharing by a survivor of childhood abuse that brought to light how this Act can cause re-traumatization for some adult children. The ‘sandwich generation’ also feel the pressure as costs of living increase and the demands of those who need their support (children and parents) can feel overwhelming. How do we ‘leave no one behind’?

I have come to the conclusion through my civil participation research that there will always be gaps and cracks that people fall through. Social justice is an ideal, but we can achieve that in small wins. This might sound fatalistic, but it can also be more sustainable in long-term changemaking efforts as we seek to work with different stakeholders, together with our different agendas, towards a new better eco-social world.

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